Not every vodka from Poland is Polish Vodka. When will the Protected Geographical Indication “Polish Vodka” pay off?
The Polish Vodka Association estimates that about 10% of vodka produced in Poland meets the definition of Polska Wódka/Polish Vodka. However, Polish Vodka has a huge potential because, as market trends show, consumers more and more often reach for products with a rich history and documented quality. That is why the Polish Vodka Association has been conducting educational activities on the history and tradition of our national drink for several years now, which has resulted in Polish Vodka being entered on the list of protected geographical indications similarly as Scotch Whisky or French Cognac. The sixth anniversary of the introduction of the current definition of Polska Wódka/Polish Vodka is an ideal moment to make a kind of summary.
Polish Vodka is the only Polish brand recognized globally. It owes this position to the hard work of generations of farmers, distillers and producers. Thanks to their work and rich traditions, the national beverage was appreciated through being entered on the list of protected geographical indications. In order to further protect the traditional recipe and production method of this alcohol, on 13th January 2013 the current definition of "Polska Wódka/Polish Vodka"1, according to which it must be produced from traditional and Polish cereals: rye, barley, oats, wheat, triticale or potatoes, came into force. In addition, the entire manufacturing process must take place in Poland.
The definition of Polish Vodka is also a response to the European Parliament's definition of vodka, according to which vodka can be produced from any raw material of agricultural origin, i.e. also from carrots or onions. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the Polish, and more broadly Slavic, prototype. Polish Vodka is primarily a reference to over 500 years of tradition of producing this alcohol on the Polish soil and to the craftsmanship of Polish distillers. Agricultural distilleries are a very important element in the production of Polish Vodka. Unfortunately, their number is decreasing year by year. The Association of Polish Distilleries estimates that at present there are approx. 50 operating distilleries.
Raw materials for the production of Polish Vodka are processed in small Polish distilleries, which distinguishes Polish Vodka from vodkas produced in other countries. It is thanks to the knowledge and passion of Polish distillers that a product of exceptional smell and taste is created. These distilleries, often established in the 19th century or at the beginning of the 20th century, produce alcohol based on traditional and proven technologies,
emphasizes Włodzimierz Warchalewski, President of the Association of Polish Distilleries.
A total of 246 spirit drinks with a protected geographical indication have been registered in the European Union. France, which has a tradition in wine production, has 53 such designations, Portugal - 11, Greece - 15. As for the countries in our region, i.e. Germany has 34 designations registered, Hungary - 8, Lithuania - 8 and Slovenia - 7. By comparison, Poland, famous for the production of spirit drinks, has only three protected geographical indications in this category. These are: Polska Wódka/Polish Vodka, Herbal vodka from the North Podlasie Lowland aromatized with bison grass extract and Polish Cherry.
Protected geographical indications have many advantages. For consumers, they are a guarantee of quality and specific character. For manufacturers, they mean maintaining high standards and healthy competition. These designations firmly link the products to the countryside where the raw materials come from, preserve traditions and link the product to a specific location. These are not anonymous products and they must meet many specific requirements. This also applies to our Polish Vodka,
stresses Michał Rzytki, Director of the Department of Promotion and Food Quality at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Products awared the protected Geographical Indication are a guarantee of quality, but also contain traditions linked to the geographical area. They are the hallmark of the country, conveying its culture, history and values. It is possible to produce vodka, whisky, brandy all over the world, but Polish Vodka, Brandy de Jerez, Cognac, Grappa or Scotch Whisky must be produced in a specific place and their production cannot be relocated anywhere. Polish Vodka can therefore be a product that promotes our country all over the world.
Poland has a great traditional product and must intensively promote it, following the example of the French and Scots, who eagerly use the power of protected geographical indications. The French have been protecting and promoting their Cognac for over 100 years, while the Scots have been protecting their alcoholic beverages so for decades. I do appreciate the taste and quality of Polish Vodka, I like to serve it alongside the dishes I prepare. “As a half-French I understand perfectly well and strongly support the need to educate Poles about the protected geographical indication Polska Wódka,
says Pascal Brodnicki, a renowned chef and promoter of French and Polish regional products.
Research conducted by the Polish Vodka Association shows that Poles are not yet sufficiently aware that not every vodka from Poland is a Polish vodka. They also do not know which raw materials can be used for its production. That is why the Association is constantly undertaking educational activities and building awareness of the designation Polish Vodka/Polish Vodka, so that Poles know the value of their national drink.
This is a very difficult, responsible and long-term task to promote and support Polish farmers, distillers and producers of Polish Vodka. This beverage is our national good, historical and cultural heritage, of which we as Poles should be proud. That is why it is worth promoting the uniqueness and exceptional character of Polish Vodka in Poland and all over the world,
says Andrzej Szumowski, President of the Polish Vodka Association.
In order to make it easier for consumers to recognise Polish Vodka, a few years ago the Association initiated its own programme to introduce a label guaranteeing that a given product is Polish Vodka. It prepared and registered a verbal and graphical mark in the Patent Office, which can be placed by the manufacturer on the packaging of a product meeting the requirements of the definition and technical specification. The educational activities have led to the opening of the Polish Vodka Museum in June 2018 in Praga district in Warsaw, which takes you on a journey through 500 years of the history of production of this alcoholic beverage in Poland and which is located inside of one of the oldest vodka production plants in Poland.
However, the undertaken promotional and educational activities require the support of state agencies and administration as well as Polish diplomacy in order to strengthen consumers' awareness of the importance of the protected geographical indication Polska Wódka (Polish Vodka).
WORD AND GRAPHIC MARKS REGISTERED BY THE POLISH VODKA ASSOCIATION
BASIC DATA ON THE SPIRIT INDUSTRY IN POLAND
- Poland is the first vodka producer in the European Union and the fourth in the world;
- 975 thousand hectolitres (100% alcohol) - vodka production in Poland in 2017. (According to GUS - the Central Statistical Office)
- PLN 12.6 billion - annual value of taxes paid by the spirit industry;
- 93 thousand people - employment in the industry;
- Approx. 20% of vodkas produced in Poland are exported;
- PLN 153.3 million - export value of vodka produced in Poland in 2017;
- 77.6% - share of vodka in the structure of spirit drinks production in 2017;
- In Poland, vodka is produced from approx. 90% cereal spirits, including maize, and approx. 8% potato spirit;
- 80 thousand tons of potatoes and about 750 thousand tons of cereals from Polish farmers are bought every year for the production of spirits;
FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS WITH A PROTECTED DESIGNATION OF ORIGIN AND A PROTECTED GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION (GI)
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Source: European Commission databases (DOOR database, e-Bacchus database, e-spirit-drinks database)